Old, vintage, historical book archives at the Morwell Historical Society

Fire October 1933 – Tarwin Street

A Journey in Time – A Resource for Local History

Fire October 1933 – Tarwin Street

Firemen Do Excellent Work

Residents of the town were disturbed from their peaceful slumbers about 3 o’clock on Monday morning last, by the ringing of the fire bell, which causes the large majority of folks to jump out of bed and rush outside to ascertain where the fire is.

On this occasion it was easy to locate the outbreak by the big blaze and flames shooting skyward from Jenkins’ Emporium in Tarwin Street. Portion of the building is two storey, and Mrs. Jenkins, Snr, Misses Jenkins, and Mr. W. Jenkins sleep upstairs. When it was discovered where the fire was everyone’s first thought was whether Mrs. Jenkins or any other members of the family had been “trapped” and all were greatly relieved when they found that although they had to make a very hurried exit in night attire, they were quite safe. At the south end of the Emporium is the grocery, hardware etc. department, then comes the men’s clothing, boots etc. Overhead are bedrooms, with balcony in front overlooking Tarwin Street. Separating this portion of the building from the drapery, manchester, millinery and fancy goods departments, was a passageway and brick wall in which there were doors connecting one department with another.

On Sunday night Mr. W. Jenkins went to bed as usual upstairs above the shop. His mother and brother Phil, who had returned from Melbourne during the afternoon, and the Misses Jenkins also went to bed upstairs.

Just on 3.a.m. Mr. Jenkins was awakened by a crackling noise and at the same time saw the reflection of a fire on the Mechanics’ Hall, across George Street. He quickly discovered that the emporium was on fire, and saw flames shooting up through the roof of the drapery and millinery departments. He quickly raised the alarm, and Mr. Barras Green, who was awakened, rushed and rang the fire bell.

Between 300 and 400 people, including men, women and children, clad in scant attire, watched the proceedings…

The firemen lost no time getting to the scene of conflagration, and with commendable promptitude responded to the call for their aid. However, by the time they were able to attack the fire, there was a tremendous blaze, and it looked as though the whole of the building would be demolished. The firemen worked like Trojans and despite the risk, which was considerable, the intense heat and dense smoke, they fought on like Anzacs until they had gained a great victory. The brick wall separating the living quarters and grocery department and men’s wear from the drapery and millinery departments combined with the efforts of the firemen, prevented the flames from spreading beyond the wall. At the other end, a narrow right-of-way and the fact that Miss Stammers’ costumière shop is built of brick, saved the fire from extending northward to her shop and Mackenzie’s furniture arcade. Between 300 and 400 people, including men, women and children, clad in scant attire, watched the proceedings, at a safe distance.

An employee of the State Electricity Commission arrived on the spot in good time and cut off the electric current, which avoided the danger caused by falling “live” wires etc. Before 4 o’clock the firemen had the outbreak well under control but it was nearly 5 o’clock before all the crowd that had gathered dispersed and went to their respective homes.

The origin of the fire is a mystery, but the general opinion is that it was caused by either thieves or an electric wire.

A few days ago, a large consignment of goods for the Christmas trade was received and placed in the drapery department. All were destroyed by the fire. The loss is partly covered by insurance, in the Alliance Insurance Company. The building was erected by Mr. J. D. Morris, of Daly Queensland, and formerly of Morwell, who still owns the property.

Every member of the Fire Brigade including reserve members were present. They were: Capt. R. Noy, Lieut. L. Noy, Firemen W. Lobley, R.Watson, R. Keith, W. Budge, C. Olver, J. Huguenin, N. Davey, R. Hewart, J. Wear, P. Robinson, J. Robinson, G. Campbell, R. Latta, C. Clark, K. Billingsley and M. Tory.